Tuesday, January 23, 2018
News Roundup

Victim of brutal domestic violence attack graduates, looks toward future

LARGO — A bespectacled man wearing a black robe and yellow sash read the names of the St. Petersburg College graduates into a microphone. One by one they walked across the stage at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks to pick up their diplomas and drown in camera flashes. With each new announcement, yelps and whistles and applause sputtered from the crowd.

Dozens of names down the list, the man in the black robe came to one that for just a moment made him pause. His voice slowed.

"Melissa Danielle Dohme."

She is 20. Dohme has a goofy sense of humor, she dreams of one day becoming a nurse, and she should not be alive.

"On January 24th," she had told the crowd minutes earlier, "I was critically injured in a brutal domestic violence attack."

Her speech left out the most disturbing details. According to authorities, her 6-foot-4, 245-pound former boyfriend had tried to murder her that day. Investigators say he stabbed Dohme 32 times across her hands, arms, face and head. He later told police he had at first attacked her with a pocket knife until he decided that wasn't enough. He retrieved a larger blade from his pickup, then came back.

The stabbing only stopped, investigators say, because a passing couple interrupted and called 911.

She was covered in so much blood that emergency personnel didn't know she had blonde hair. She lost two teeth and cut a nerve that nearly paralyzed the right side of her face. For months, she couldn't shut her eye and, still, her smile sags. She suffered a stroke that impaired her balance. She couldn't hold a pencil. Doctors doubted she would ever walk again without a cane.

Robert Lee Burton Jr., whose name she seldom mentions, has since been charged with attempted first-degree murder and is in jail.

For Dohme, Saturday was about things that Burton couldn't stop her from achieving. It was about earning her associate degree with a GPA over 3.9. About being named the Clearwater campus' student of the year. About hearing her name called and — without a cane and in 4-inch black heels — walking across that stage to pick up her diploma.

She posed for pictures until her cheeks hurt. She worried that her ears would show through her shoulder-length hair. She exchanged hugs with the school's president, William D. Law Jr. She teased a microbiology teacher who had given her a B. She showed off a French manicure on hands covered in scars.

She also talked of her future.

Less than four months after nearly dying, Dohme backpacked through Europe for six weeks. In her mind, she has already begun planning a return trip.

Beginning this spring, she'll increase her therapy sessions to three times a week. Between November and December, her smile moved a millimeter. That's a big deal. Her entire grin, she believes, is on its way back.

She plans to start working more hours at Morton Plant Hospital's Women's Center, where she has a job in guest services. She'll continue school part-time this semester because, in March, Burton is scheduled to go on trial.

Graduating was a milestone, but she views those days in court as the finish line.

She's ready to face him.

On a train ride between France and England, she wrote on her cell phone the words that she hopes to read at his sentencing. She thinks they'll surprise him. She calls it a "forgiveness speech."

"No anger here," she said. "Just happiness."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Targeted by false filings, Pinellas judge takes witness stand

Targeted by false filings, Pinellas judge takes witness stand

LARGO ó In his eight years as a circuit judge, Thomas Minkoff has handled family and civil cases, as well as 14,000 foreclosure hearings.He was in court once again on Tuesday, but not in his usual perch at the bench. This time, he was on the witness ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and NHL All-Star Weekend overlap Saturday in downtown Tampa. Here are highlights of what to know before you go.GETTING THEREThe parade route runs generally along Bayshore Boulevard north to Ashley Street (In blue on t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

CLEARWATER — Officials have reopened U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. except for the inside lane.† The entire highway was closed for a brief period Tuesday while workers cleaned up a chemical spill after a Terminix truck flipped over. According t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco joins opioid litigation

Pasco joins opioid litigation

NEW PORT RICHEY ó Once every three days in 2017, somebody in Pasco County overdosed on opioids. The statistic, revealed Tuesday by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, helped cement the Pasco County Commissionís decision a few minutes later to join ongoing lit...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Five Hernando County educators nominated for LifeChanger of the Year Awards

Hernando County Public Schools has five educators in the running for prizes ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 in the 2017-2018 national LifeChanger of the Year awards. The program will give out 17 awards.Travis Bruns and Doug Poteet of Pine Grove Elemen...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Brooksville church starts ministry to feed the hungry

Brooksville church starts ministry to feed the hungry

BROOKSVILLE ó It was the first sermon of 2017 at Grace World Outreach Church when Sue Bailey heard her pastor, David Garcia, talk about visions."He preached about a huge vision and said we should Ďstay the courseí and not let Satan distract us," Bail...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Chase to make $20B investment, raise wages

Chase to make $20B investment, raise wages

JPMorgan Chase announced Tuesday that it will boost wages, open new branches and hire thousands of new workers, citing improved economic performance and sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code. Wages will rise to between $15 and $18 an hour from a rang...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Column: The left is so used to being sold out that it canít tell when itís winning

Column: The left is so used to being sold out that it canít tell when itís winning

Democrats are feckless. When it counts, they always fold. After all, theyíre more beholden to donors and lobbyists than they are to their base.This narrative is so old, so straightforward, and so pleasingly infuriating that it just rolls off the tong...
Updated: 2 hours ago
No reports of dog flu in Tampa Bay, but another virus could pose threat

No reports of dog flu in Tampa Bay, but another virus could pose threat

A nasty strain of the flu is sweeping the country and the CDC reports that deadly cases have increased in nearly every region of the United States. To make matters worse, your pets are also at risk of catching their own flu.But while Humane Society o...
Updated: 2 hours ago